When German artist Charlotte Salomon (1917–1943) passed her gouache collection Existence? or Theater? over to a loved one, she beseeched him to “take excellent care of it, it’s my whole Existence.” A couple of months later, the 5-months pregnant Charlotte was once picked up via a Gestapo truck, deported to Drancy, after which directly to Auschwitz, the place she died upon arrival on the age 26.

The paintings Salomon left in the back of is, in an overly actual experience, her pièce de résistance – in her personal phrases, “one thing wildly eccentric.” A cycle of just about 1,300 autobiographical gouaches, it combines inventive power with pioneering non-public narrative into one shattering report of self-expression.

Divided into 3 sections, the gouaches unveil a shiny self-portrait spanning throughout all sides of Charlotte’s lifestyles: from a sophisticated circle of relatives Existence, marked via the suicides of just about all feminine spouse and children; rising up in Berlin; her shut relation to making a song instructor Alfred Wolfsohn; the upward push of the Nazis; to her exile to France in 1939. During, the artist demanding situations those damaging forces via deploying playful pseudonyms and fantastical parts along emotional candor, outstanding remark, and a meticulous visible reminiscence. Her movie strip-like sequences are interspersed now not most effective with phrases but additionally musical ideas, making Existence? or Theater? the storybook for an entire musical, years ahead of the heyday of that style.

Without comparability, the gouaches are a triumph of private reality and person expression. Printed right here with a number of the 450 so much necessary items, Existence? Or Theatre? is an unequalled opus magnum from an ideal and bold artist, darkish along with her early demise, however luminous along with her precision, her lyricism, and her braveness.